Monday, September 12, 2016

Longing for Community

I've been watching Britain's Escape to the Country. It's my relaxation screen-time right now. And on every show the presenter is quick to tell us that the quaint little village we're visiting this time has a local pub or two in easy walking distance. Often they're hundreds of years old with antique signs swinging out front declaring "The Red Lion" or "The Queen's Arms" is there. A village pub says community to me -- a place where everyone can go, cozy, quaint, warm, friendly, full of good food and good drink and good company.

Why don't we have village pubs in the U.S.A.?

Anna is living in Japan now, so we're eager to learn more about Japanese culture. Yesterday Adam shared a youtube video from a young married girl, a transplant from the US to Japan. She loves  to visit Japanese "onsun," local bath houses that are scattered all over that country.

Onsun bath houses are not expensive. It's a lovely, peaceful spa, immaculate and soul-restoring. For about $6 this young woman can calm her ruffled feathers for an hour and experience quiet community with other Japanese women. To enjoy this in the states, I guess I'd need to visit a fancy spa and pay a lot of money, something I've never done. And these Japanese bath houses are fed by underground springs, and the water is changed every evening! They provide all the amenities you need.

Why don't we have local bath houses like that in the U.S.A.?

For years I loved watching Rick Steves every Saturday and traveled around Europe with him. Did you? It seemed like every Italian town, every French or Spanish village, every English hamlet had a market once or twice each week -- every village had its own little market. These fresh markets filled the village square (another lovely idea!), and everyone shopped there for bread, veggies and fruit, meat, fish, even clothes or antiques or books. I was mesmerized by such a central community event held every week for hundreds of years. What a neighborly thing! What do American towns have to compare? The local strip mall?

Why don't we have village markets like that in the U.S.A.?

I'm not trashing my country, I promise. But I'm wondering if we lack an essential element of community-mindedness that is assumed in other parts of the world. I'm trying to think if we have anything really comparable to these deeply-ingrained community gathering places in other lands. We have playgrounds and parks, but sometimes they seem scary, and certainly everybody doesn't frequent them. Shopping malls don't have a personal or friendly feel; like the rest of America, they are purely consumeristic. Do any of you feel we are missing this element in our culture? What could we do to try to reverse it, one town at a time? I know some small towns (Oriental is one) do have a rich feeling of community, but most do not. I think it requires a public location for people to gather -- a green, a coffee shop, a market. People move in and move out and never feel they belong. There's nowhere to go to begin to fit in. No local pub. (And a bar in the U.S. just does not at all have the same effect!) No hundred year old market. (Walmart is a sad substitute!) No onsun. I wish I had such a place!

What do you think?


  1. I went to a fun coffee shop the other day to meet a friend. It was very homey and friendly! So refreshing! It's close to the friend's house but not mine. I'm still going to go back. I think we can build community by learning the names of employees who work at the bakery, library, nursing homes, and grocery stores.

  2. Interesting ideas here. The sense of community is, I suppose, no longer terribly important. There seems to be more of it out here where we are. Personally, though, I don't find it important to me. I have solitary interests and hobbies and lots of farm work. I don't surround myself with friends. Never have. I am not the least bit shy, but I am content when I am solitary. I like my own company.

  3. I find this really interesting. When I spent a week in Madison, Indiana, I most loved the community revolving around coffee shop prayer groups and library reading groups. And in NI we don't have any of the above really. I imagine that many, many parts of England don't have them as well. You have lots of community at your Saturday market?

  4. My knitting group meets at a local ice cream shop every week! I long for what you mention above. I think what Pom Pom said about some coffee shops is along these lines. What about farmers' markets? I know you are a "regular".

  5. I tend to be a solitary like Mary Ann, but I have a desire to find a few friends that I can hang out with who share some interests. Many mornings I leave home at 6:30 to go to work and I notice there is a table full of "old folks" in the local cafe. They meet every morning to discuss the world's problems. :) I'd love to have the courage to join them. There is also a store across the street from my apartment where they have an art night every Wednesday with live music. Once again, my own shyness keeps me from going. I think there are things to do to become more part of the community, but I have to take some initiative. I don't really enjoy large crowds, but I would like to do some of these smaller group things. I watch Escape to the Country also, and always thought that pubs sounded like a fun thing. I don't drink, but I imagine there would be good food and maybe some fiddle and tinwhistle music, lol. Probably a stereotype?


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